O’Connor: Could Have Gone Better, On The Right Track, WA Not To Blame

O’Connor: Could Have Gone Better, On The Right Track, WA Not To Blame

We’ve just this second gotten off the phone with Brendan O’ Connor. Jetted off towards the airport to catch a 5pm flight, he made the time to call Kotaku and fill us in on a number of details on the SCAG meeting and some of the outcomes.

“Look,” he began, “I’m just glad we reached some sort of consensus. This is a point upon which we can move forward from.

“It could’ve gone better, but there was a lot of goodwill in the room, and everyone agreed that things need to be changed with the rating system. We need to protect children from unsuitable games and we need to make sure that adults are allowed to play the games they want to play.

“It’s all about the guidelines,” he continued. “We need to have a clear consensus on the guidelines and we’re on the right track.”

We asked Brendan O’ Connor about the involvement of the Western Attorney-General, with regards to rumours he is responsible for the delay.

“Ah look,” he said, “Christian has a really open mind about the subject, and he is genuinely worried about the way games are currently falling into childrens hands under MA15+. Like I said there was a real consensus in the room, and this is a good first step. Changes will be made and the way we adjust the guidelines are a very important part of that process. We have to work out what’s in and what’s out.

“We also had a new Victorian AG, and he’s only been an Attorney General for a few days, so we really need more time to get everything worked out.”

“There’s a lot more work to do.”


  • Adjust the guidelines? This is the reason for the delay? What a cop out.

    Open the document containing the guidelines currently used for films. Select all. Copy. Open the document containing the guidelines currently used for games. Delete everything, then paste.

    It took me longer to type that that it would take them to actually do it.

      • Yeah, thanks for that – I hadn’t noticed.

        They’re near enough for classification purposes. There’s no reason they couldn’t adopt those guidelines now and then “adjust” them at the next meeting in 6 months time.

        Or even give it 12 months – if we’re not inundated with hardcore interactive pornography then they can probably assume they guidelines are working.

        • Near enough does NOT equal good enough when it comes to law.

          You seem to be forgetting that there’s an interactive element to video games that mediums like film or books do not have. To pretend that this doesn’t (or shouldn’t) factor into such a decision is ludicrous. It would be like saying that we could just copy the guidelines for film verbatim and apply it to books, neglecting the fact that while film is a visual medium, books are only as visual as the words on the page (and what the particular reader imagines, if you want to make that argument).

          While I understand your anger at the situation (and you are certainly not alone), this is not something that could suddenly be fixed overnight, despite wishes to the contrary. It needs to be addressed in a way that the general populace, not just gamers who understand the situation personally, can understand the potential changes and how it affects them directly.

          • Frankly, we shouldn’t be dealing with governmental censorship to begin with. It’s a bunch of nanny-state BS.

          • It’s worth remembering that even ignoring the maximum rating disparity between film and games, they are NOT treated the same.

            You mention the issue of interactivity. Interactivity is something that the classification board are explicitly required to take into account when classifying games.

            Even then, there has been no conclusive research to indicate that interactivity makes it more harmful. However, the current arrangement places the decision on that matter up to the professionals on the classification board, whose job it is to make the best call. Not the Attorneys-General.

          • The games industry largely aspires to, and is inspired by, the film industry. Games these days have stories written by people who draw inspiration from film as drawing inspiration from game story elements would be foolish to a person that grew up with Mario, Sonic and Earthworm Jim. It would be fair to say that they deserve the *exact same* classification system for this purpose.

            Earlier today I was talking with a late-thirties woman about Assassin’s Creed II. She said it would make a great movie and I can see why, but it is great as a game because it is a game – and games carry plots, themes and, yes, the same elements of sex and violence as movies. Blaming interactivity in games is pointless – with the rewind and fast forward button I can watch a death in as slow and perverse a manner as I would carrying out multiple deaths in a game.

            Considering this I wonder why choose-your-own-adventure novels never got in shit.

          • You sir, are a patronising, paternalistic assneck. You would have been one of those freaks who wanted to ban vinyl records because Satanic messages could be included when played in reverse. The core issues are censorship vs classification and freedom of speech. I certainly don’t want a panel of people like you telling me what I can play, watch, read or anything for that matter. However, I can see the merit in informing people of media content, something included in censorship but done very poorly (see numerous examples of games classified MA15+ here which are R18+ overseas). Our current system seems to presumes our 15 year old population has the maturity of 18 year olds while our adult population ceases to mature beyond 15! Nice job, ass clowns!

            There is no evidence that these entertainment products do any damage to people. As usual, it is nonsense like this that distracts people from the core issues of control.

            The Australian people have spoken clearly in favour of an R18+ classification through multiple channels – these SCAG bastards are negligent in their duties if they fail to do our bidding and should be fired for letting their personal opinions cloud an overwhelmingly positive response from the public and more recently, the government.

            Stay out of peoples affairs and we’ll all get along much better. That goes for you too, u.s. army.


        • Games can also have morphine references and pass our current guidelines. What they can’t do is provide incentives for its use.

          As an example GTA Chinatown Wars referenced many real world drugs, but didn’t actually have you using them, so did not get banned.

    • Its even easier than that.

      They only need to take out the small notes that state their is no R18 rating available for Games.

    • There is already a single document outlining the guidelines for classification of film and video games, so no cut’n’paste needed.

      The main thing that needs to change is the text that says R18+ is not available for video games. From the sounds of it, they might want to adjust how “impact” is assessed for games at the same time though.

    • Gamers like you need to get out of your mothers basement and into reality.

      I know, how could they dawdle while you are unable to play L4D2 uncensored, this is an urgent matter! They need to rush out these guidelines so you can have more realistic head chopping ASAP!!!11

      But unfortunately for you, changing laws doesn’t happen overnight. To put it in terms you would understand: Black Ops was rushed out without proper testing, resulting in a mess and people got pissed off. They took a week or so to patch it up but the damage has been done. In Government and real life, the stakes are much higher than pissing off some gamers. Laws need all their bugs crushed before getting passed or shit happens, eg people will find loopholes (read:hax, bug exploits).

    • the awesome thing is Mark would have had this made up and ready to go.. i would like to think it was in a folder labeled only “Plan B”

      • I kind of envisioned it sitting there in a glass case on the wall next to the fire alarm with a sign on it reading “In case of political gutlessness, break glass”.

        • Actually i believe it may have been contained in a locked suitcase, for which there was 2 keys. One held by Mark, and one held by Seamus. With a grim look on their face they would nod and simultaneously turns the keys and push the glowing red button that awaits inside…

  • It’s obvious that the AG’s are just looking for excuses to further delay this issue until they get the results they want. Trust me; we will have another 2 years of pointless consultations and public opinion papers to go through.

      • I agree that they’ll faff about for as long as possible – from the sounds of it, they want to consider revising the content of R18+ to factor in the interactivity argument. They won’t do anything whatsoever until the US Supreme Court rules on the California game laws Arnie has tried to float, despite our own government releasing a comprehensive lit review that found no credible evidence of interactivity having any added effect! Just another case if our government playing “Monkey See, Monkey Do” with the US…

  • Theres no doubt that the outcome is very dissapointing but not unexpected, but saying that all AG’s want a change is really a positive step. Maybe next SCAG meeting or sooner if they hold a special meeting sooner.

  • He is right, it wasn’t that long ago that we seemed years away from any progression. The consensus of the meeting as he describes is really promising. Seems as though it’s just a matter of time now. so… maybe a quasi celebration is to be had then?

  • This is the update people should have waited for before raging at today’s decision. Basically what we seem to be looking at is an agreement that yes, we should have an R18+ rating, but that we need to decide what the new rating system will actually be before jumping into it. If that is an accurate reading of the situation, then it makes perfectly good sense to me. The broad issue of whether or not there should be an R18+ rating at all seems to be largely done with, and we’re moving into deciding what that will actually mean.

    Yes, there’s still a chance it will all go pear-shaped, but slinging insults at the people making the decision won’t get us anywhere. Let’s stay optimistic and, most importantly, mature in our responses. Let’s show the undecided that the Australian gaming community is deserving of being treated like adults.

    • Why should we HAVE to prove that? More to the point, why should we have to prove it any more than the australian film-watching community, the australian beer-drinking community, the australian cigarette-smoking community and the australian having-sex-community, who are all currently allowed to engage in their chosen adults-only activities without government interference?

      • You’re right: we shouldn’t have to prove it, and it would probably even be accurate to say that we don’t have to as far as decision-making goes. I’d just prefer to see that side of the community, especially with regards to this issue. I don’t think people give us enough credit for it – anyone see that awful 7pm Project segment? – and I’d like to see that change; the R18+ rating alone won’t do that.

        • on a side note.. from everything i have read there ISNT agreement we should have an R18 rating, only the same agreement we have had for 5 years, that we need to look more into an R18 rating.

  • I’m glad that they all agree that things need to be changed with the rating system; its more like a complete do over though lol.

  • With all due respect to ALL the AG’s, they can go FUCK THEMSELVES!!!
    And that’s the amount of respect they deserve.

    Anyone know how to see the funding representatives get? I am starting to wonder if the ACL et al just keep buying the votes?

  • It’s a complete failure of our system that something that should be considered an incredibly simple decision takes so long to get made.

    The failure was in the original decision to only allow a maximum rating of MA15+ for video games without any evidence to support a lack of R18+. The failure was in the handing over of the powers for this matter to the SCAG and require unanimous agreement for any progress to be made. The failure was in allowing the voice of an ignorant minority to control the debate.

    We know what went wrong. What can we do to correct things? This is going to take more than just letter writing.

  • Can we do a FoI and get the list of which A-G vote “yea” and which “nay” please?

    I’m sure there are plenty of details that need to be worked out in relation to the actual guidelines (following the guidelines for movies would be a decent start, but anyway…) but the LEAST I would have expected from today’s meeting was “in principle” support for an R18+ rating.

    That we didn’t even get “in principle” support is totally bizzare, given the enormous public support for it, all the evidence in favour and so on…

  • This isn’t all that far off what I predicted. They acknowledge that we need change. That is a good sign. What I’ve said a couple times before is that there was no suggestion about what an R18 game would actually be. I’m not 100% convinced that the copy/paste from film is the best solution either. Haven’t we all said that videogames are different to film? I’m not sure that calling the two exactly the same is a tenable position. After all, books are not classified the same as film.

    I would have thought we would have (and we may still) heard a stronger statement “It is clear we need change” with the caveat “we want more time to work out exactly what the new classification system looks like.” This isn’t too far off what this is.

    Either way, this isn’t much until we hear from WA.

    • I think the level of media interest in the decision built up an expectation that this would finally be the time.

      As you say, progress is progress, and the studies they’re doing before March 2011’s SCAG meeting will hopefully lead to a better outcome then.

  • Here’s what will happen. Eventually an R18+ classification will be introduced. Then the guidelines will be changed; half of what is currently under MA15+ will be reclassified R18+, and the RC threshold wont change so games like Blitz the League and Fallout 3 will still run into trouble because they are perceived to promote illicit drug use which is an instant RC.

    • Unfortunately i can see this happening and agree.

      The way they are speaking sounds like MA15 becomes R and M becomes MA15 etc etc rather then having a true R rating.

      • It is if they show positive consequences without negative implications and if they are real drugs or pretend.

        Plasmid etc. in Bioshock = not real so OK.

        Morphine in Fallout = real with unrealistic benefits, so banned.

        • Though people tend to forget that the drugs in fallout are addictive in game and have negative consequences as well as the positive.

    • I’ve got blitz the league sitting next to me along with a r rated um version of gta. My money went overseas for this. I want to think of the children but also the economy. I would much rather buy these games locally. Im still going to regardless of the rating system. If that fails then I will make a couple of quick changes to my consoles as there is always another option to get these games.

      What I am getting at is that this stuff is already here so you either update the system, get the economic benefits of this or allow tax paying adults who are otherwise responsible to purchase overseas or become pirates. Your call guys.

  • what does it matter really? all the R18 games slide under the radar and get the M15 rating anyways, the only games that don’t get down under are the one’s that would be refused any sort of classification ie: anything with sexual violence.

  • Has anyone considered that the response to this will be to tighten up MA15+ while not introducing an R18+? Seems to me what the ACL wants.

  • I swear how long do the AGs plan to further delay resolving an issue that has been in the history of Australia for years? How long must Australia continue to be behind the rating standards when compared t other countries? This is just ridiculous. We Australians expect to see some proper, true and solid results soon.

  • I hate committees! You can never get everyone to agree. I guess no one saying No is a good start. But at this rate it will take another 5 years until some more gamers are old enough to actually be politicians.

    • The plus side is that plenty are old enough to be voters. And the size of the response to their call to submissions would have been a serious wake up call to them. They’d be politically smart enough to know that if somebody feels strongly enough about an issue to put in a submission then they probably feel strongly enough about it for it to influence their voting decision.

      Hopefully they’ll soon cotton on to the fact that there are more gamers in this country than there are ultra-right wing evangelical christian nutjobs.

  • The important thing for gaming groups now is to put forward the argument that due to the non-finding that games have more impact than films due to interactivity, the classification rules need not lean more heavily on games due to this false assumption.

    In other words, they should not be rated more stringently for content just because they are games.

    This is an issue that goes under the radar due to the lack of an R category, but needs to be addressed

  • So the only thing ive learnt today after refreshing Kotaku every 10 mins is that i should always expect disapointment when the govt is involved and the Toyota Rukus is an exceptionally ugly car!

  • Well give me my winnings, this went down just how I thought, that I said I would put 4 grand down on, they would delay, the new Victorian AG would be mentioned that he’s only been in for days and we would still have nothing. ‘More work to do?’ Like what? You’ve run out of reasons to stall as you know the public’s view, ‘we are out of reasons to stall…let’s just stall and give reason and hope they forget.’
    And how long is it until the next scag meeting? With a system this slow and easy to block, how does anything get done? Which idiot thought up this is the best way to get new policy in when creating the system?
    We’ve all been super patient and held our tempers and made our pitch with respect for so long but seriously Attorney generals, F-you guys.

  • Understandably people are frustrated but I can’t believe how quickly some are jumping off the O’Connor bandwagon, picking up rotten fruit and pelting it at him – he was in very strong support of changes and I think it’s generous he spoke to Mark after getting such an anticlimactic outcome.

    If they said “we all agree there needs to be an R18+ rating and this is what it should be” then awesome, but it would still take months to be instituted, with very little happening over Christmas/New Year, no doubt.

    Considering the time of year, that they claim to be meeting early next year (we’ll assume February/March?) and that (seemingly) everyone agrees change is needed… if everyone’s prepared for the next meeting (they now have no excuse not to be) I don’t see this as much of a setback at all. Nothing was going to happen overnight – I’m sort of disappointed they didn’t commit outright but really, what did people expect?

    • Absolutely agree we should support him, the bloke has basically gone into bat for us which is more that any of his federal predecessors have done. Whats more he is personally calling games journalists and answering their questions and he is holding the AG fat cats to account for their decision making. Might be worth shooting of a letter of support I think.

  • Cowards. Stop making excuses! You didn’t reach any real consensus at all, that’s just bullshit you’re trying to sell us to pacify our anger, frustration and confusion.

    Thanks for the update anyway, Mr. Serrels.

  • It’s a step in the right direction. This sort of thing doesn’t happen overnight.

    Some of you guys who are getting angry and sweary about this – you are doing this cause no favours by appearing to be emotionally unstable, incoherent and coarse. That plays right into the hands of your opponents.

  • read between the lines. R will get up once they see the guidelines for it. Realistically they’d never give the nod unless they saw the new guidelines. Seems to me what they want to see is a revised down MA because, as they’ve been saying all week, they believe the current MA guidelines allow too high content for there comfort. An adjustment to that, and some clear new R guidelines that probably talk about the effect of interactivity (one way or the other) and they’ll sign off on it. They’re naturally cautious, and have to be seen to be. I’ll take the 4k bet we get a reasonable R in 2011. Don’t forget each state has to change its current legislation along with the federal act. It all takes time. I reckon the bridge has essentially been crossed.

  • WA Attorney-Gen: “brb, gotta see if the state gov, want to be dicks about this.” I live in WA, can our gov actually represent for once, instead of going SCREW THE RULES, WE HAVE MONEY! ?

  • The only way we are going to get a R18+ rating for games is if we vote out all the wowser baby-boomer politicians who are desperately clinging to power.

    O’Conner is a prime example of a Labor politician trying to appeal to Gen X/Y only to fail miserably.

    In the upcoming NSW state election send a message to Canberra and put Labor/Liberals last.

    Voting for The Greens, Australian Sex Party, Secular Party of Australia or any Independent who is not a raving religious zealot is the only way change is going to happen.

  • Do we have to wait for the next scag meeting? or do they have to reschedule how long could it be before we see a more definitive answer?

    So we’ve established they agree with us, it didnt take a whole meeting and tax payer funded visits to get that far.

  • Perhaps they found out about the dastardly game Borderlands, in which you slaughter thousands of innocent Scags? 😛

  • For years our politicians have been happy to jump on the scapegoat bandwagon and blame everything except the poor supervision of their own children.

    Negligence, is one of the biggest issues in Australia right now, and its not a bad rating system that buys games like GTA, games proudly proclaimed by their makers as being made for and aimed at adults, its the mum or dad trying to sate their kids.

    Australia needs to grow up in general, and this is just one facet of overall ignorance is bliss kinda bullshit.

  • The only reason I care for this at this point is as a matter of principle.

    Games in Australia are maybe 200% of the price they are in other countries, so it is cheaper to import if it gets banned anyway (Or have an American friend buy them for you ala Left 4 Dead 2). I don’t remember the last time I bought anything locally unless the console was region locked (And even then, flashcarts/piracy is legal under Australian laws if the device has region locking, so buying the game cheap then emulating it is still a viable option).

    But I guess I hope that once games get taken seriously by having an R18+ rating, maybe some form of government will look at the outrageous pricing? Or the other issues surrounding the Australian games industry?

    It is a sad day, but I fear that this is not the biggest issue in the Australian games industry we should be worrying about, the pricing of games and the lack of a decent internet service for indie developers to publish their games online are much more direct problems. Let’s also not forget the lack of locally hosted servers for even the biggest online games, who seem to consider Australia too unimportant to buy a few servers and maintain them (Hell even some ISP’s gaming sections have asked to host for free and are usually denied e.g. 3FL).

    Just my 2 cents

  • The only reason I care for this at this point is as a matter of principle.

    Games in Australia are maybe 200% of the price they are in other countries, so it is cheaper to import if it gets banned anyway (Or have an American friend buy them for you ala Left 4 Dead 2). I don’t remember the last time I bought anything locally unless the console was region locked (And even then, it is still maybe $300 cheaper to buy a foreign console to replace the region locked one).

    But I guess I hope that once games get taken seriously by having an R18+ rating, maybe some form of government will look at the outrageous pricing? Or the other issues surrounding the Australian games industry?

    It is a sad day, but I fear that this is not the biggest issue in the Australian games industry we should be worrying about, the pricing of games and the lack of a decent internet service for indie developers to publish their games online are much more direct problems. Let’s also not forget the lack of locally hosted servers for even the biggest online games, who seem to consider Australia too unimportant to buy a few servers and maintain them (Hell even some ISP’s gaming sections have asked to host servers for free and are usually denied e.g. 3FL wanting to host WoW).

    Just my 2 cents.

  • meh by the power of the internet banning games is an exercise in futility really te only people this affects are people who perfer to buy locally which i now suspect there will be substantionally less off

  • *shrug*
    I wish I could say I was surprised by this. But having worked in the public sector, I’m not. Bureaucracy is a long slow process that defies logic and common sense and this result is the best we could’ve gotten.

    There was no Atkinson-elect in the room (WIN!), so all we can hope for is for the ratings guidelines and procedures to address and alleviate any fears held by the AGs on behalf of their constituents. We’ll get an R, it’s inevitable. They just need to defang and declaw it first.

  • “It could’ve gone better, but there was a lot of goodwill in the room, and everyone agreed that things need to be changed with the rating system.”

    In other words, a bunch of useless fuckwits who are incapable of making a decision just shafted all of us despite 98% support.

    I’m sad to be an Australian and I hope they all rot while I change countries.

  • This is not really bad news. This is the process that has to be followed. Drafts of the guidelines will have to be drawn up before there’s any kind of satisfying victorious vote. Laws don’t get changed overnight. None of you can possibly think that a meeting would be held, people would all nod, and then the next week R18+ games are on shelves.

  • another lame result that lacks common sense. get 10 gamers in a room and the guidelines would be outlined and simple to understand. problem solved!

  • This, TBH, is more than I was hoping for. Yer, we did not get an R18+, BUT we did get something, witch is a lot better than the last few meetings.

    I have always thought a total overhaul to the system was needed. Its going to be interesting to see what happens I think. My only problem is the wait. Why can they have them every 2 months….

    • @Jajgi56
      We got nothing

      It was only delayed because otherwise the WA Attorney General would have drawn far more anger if he had said directly no

      This will keep happening every single time, I gurantee it
      Thats why even with Atkinson gone, its taken them a year to decide on this

      O’Connor can you tell you that room was postive all he likes, but the fact is that as long as the WA Attorney General has the power to veto it with decisions like this, he will continue to do so because it is in his best interests not to upset the MPs in his office

      What needs to be changed is that factor, the ability of them to veto decisions based on one sole person

  • Thats it, it has been confirmed. I am going to become a politician. Because only in politics can I faff about so damn much, not complete or commit to anything and still get paid. we have pollies all over the place saying ” We need a pay rise because of our work loads” or “If we were in the private sector we would earn more”. The truth is if they acted in the private sector like they do while in government they would be fired and kicked to the kerb for not preforming so quickly thier head would spin. The only reason they are in the public sector now is so they can faff about, do nothing and get a decent paycheck with great benefits

    The R18+ classification for games if the biggest example of this. We still do not have an agreement on yay or nay. All we are getting is “we need more time to flesh out the proposal” and “there was a good consensus in the room”

    I’m not asking for them to go bam here is your R18+ rating it will start being used new week. but I would like them to say YES there will be an R18+ rating in Australia, we have agreed that it will be done, now we start the task of reviewing and outlining the new classifications guidlines for video games. That is all I am asking. I do not expect it to be done over night but I do want them to actually make a damn decision not just “we will need to to discuss the guidelines further”.

    I get that work will need to be done to sort it all our but for crying out loud at least say that you will be implementing the rating. That way at least we know you are actually working in that room and we can all be happy knowing that at a bare minium work will be done to sort the guidlines out because now, with no commitment other than “yeah we will talk about it more” it shows that they still have no plan to implement the rating at all because if they did, they would have said that they are going to implement the rating but just need to get those guidelines together before it is put into use.

    My final message to the AG’s is:

    You do not need to have all the guidelines in place to say “Yes we all agree that there will be an over haul of our classification guidelines to include an R18+ rating for video game, but we need to draft and agree on what the new guidelines will be. They will be discussed at our coming meeting”

  • @WiseHacker The ACL always publishes incorrect information. They claim to represent the majority but they only represent people who are anti-Islamic, anti-gay, racist and stuck in the 1950’s. If you attempt to point out the truth to them they will ignore you as they can’t handle the truth.

    • *Sigh* Reminds me of a character by Socrates. Creon I think his name was.

      He was a character that had a line that goes something like “A man whose ears are deaf to the truth is damned.”

      Let’s just say it did not end too well for him.

  • I am actually quietly confident about this. Entirely separate to the issue of R18+ for games, and what that would mean, I would like to see a general review of the rating system.

    Ideally I would like to see a separate classification board for games, with industry, government and public interest represented, but that may be too much to ask for.

  • I knew there would be dilly-dallying on this issue.

    How come the government can implement new taxes and schemes at the drop of a hat but can’t introduce a proper rating scheme for interactive media?

    It looks like we’ll be forever stuck with using the internets to simply buy the games we want that our stupid country has decided to have mutilated or not allow for sale. Maybe we should just move to NZ and tell AUS where to shove it?

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